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France

French ambassador meets arrested teacher

Video by Mariam PIRZADEH , Luke SHRAGO

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-10

Clotilde Reiss, a young French teacher detained in Tehran's Evin prison after she was accused by Iran of spying, was able to briefly speak with ambassador Bernard Poletti, a diplomatic source has told the AFP.

AFP - France's ambassador to Tehran on Thursday met a French woman lecturer who has been detained in Iran's notorious Evin prison on charges of espionage, a diplomatic source told AFP.

Ambassador Bernard Poletti met Clotilde Reiss at the prison for around 40 minutes, the source said, following her arrest on July 1 in the wake of the massive protests in Iran over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election.

"She is in good physical condition and seems to be treated well. But she is rather preoccupied with what will happen next," the source said, adding that Poletti had passed messages from her family on to Reiss.

Another diplomatic source said Reiss had been "interrogated, but not ill-treated."

"She has a strong character and speaks good Persian. She has many friends in Iran as she has been staying here for a long time."

An Iranian foreign ministry official confirmed for the first time that Reiss, 23, was in custody.

"She was taken for questioning regarding the unrest" in the aftermath of the June 12 election, he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

On Wednesday, Poletti had a short telephone conversation with Reiss.

It was believed to be her first contact with the outside world since she was arrested a week ago at Tehran airport on what French officials say were charges of spying.

Reiss has been in Iran for more than five months and is a lecturer at the Isfahan Technical university in central Iran.

She has been accused of spying for taking part in opposition protests over last month's disputed presidential vote and of sending an email to a friend in Tehran that contained information on the rallies, French officials said.

In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy dismissed as "pure fantasy" any suggestion that Reiss had been involved in espionage and called for her release.

"No one can accept that French nationals are kidnapped and detained on the pretext of espionage. All of this is not a good sign."

Her father Remi said Clotilde was "not at all political."

"She cannot be considered a militant," Reiss said of his daughter who was introduced to the country's culture at a young age by an Iranian nanny.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Tuesday he had discussed the case with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki.

Mottaki had asked him what she had been doing at a demonstration against Ahmadinejad, where she had been taking photos.

"But she was not in the demonstration," said Kouchner. "She took photos with her mobile phone like hundreds of thousands of other people."

The text messages she had sent out to friends and family had been entirely innocent -- along the lines of "Don't worry about me," Kouchner added.

The Iranian foreign ministry officials said Mottaki had told Kouchner that his ministry would handle the case with a "positive attitude."

Relations between the West and Iran have been particularly tense since massive street protests erupted over Ahmadinejad's bitterly-disupted re-election in the worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The regime cracked down on opponents, rounding up hundreds of leading reformists, political activists, journalists and protesters and accusing foreign powers of inciting the unrest.

Date created : 2009-07-09

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